Dame Jacqueline Wilson visits Bognor Regis

Author Jacqueline Wilson promoting her new book Sapphire Battersea at Butlins in Bognor Regis
Author Jacqueline Wilson promoting her new book Sapphire Battersea at Butlins in Bognor Regis

An award-winning author who has sold more than 30 million books in the UK has revealed her newest novel is set in the sunny seaside town of Bognor Regis.

Dame Jacqueline Wilson said it was a ‘delight’ to go to Butlin’s to sign copies of her new book Sapphire Battersea and meet with her fans.

“The book is set back in Victorian times and Hetty Feather goes to a Victorian seaside town on the south coast. I called it Bignor (a real village in West Sussex), but it was very much based on Bognor. I went there as a child and I also visited Middleton-on-Sea.

“I must try to dig out some stuff. There’s a snapshot of me on Bognor beach with my grandma, paddling in the sea and making sandcastles. It’s a lovely, happy typical seaside place.”

Dame Jacqueline has been working hard to promote her new novel and said 2011 has been a bumper year for her.

The author, who gained notoriety with her book The Story of Tracy Beaker which was subsequently made into a BBC programme, is the most borrowed in the UK from public libraries over the past decade.

Resort director at Butlin’s, Bognor Regis, Jeremy Pardey said: “Jacqueline is a real storytelling heroine among children so to have her kick-off half term at Butlins was incredible.

“Not only did she take time to meet her fans but we all got a sneak preview of her new book, thanks to a reading from the woman herself. It was a perfect start to the school holidays.”

Sapphire Battersea is currently number one in the children’s best-sellers UK chart.

The novel follows on from her previous book, Hetty Feather, an orphan in Victorian times. In the newest edition her character takes on the name Sapphire Battersea and at 14-years-old she breaks out of the orphanage for an adventure.

Dame Jacqueline said: “Sapphire is a historical book, whereas most of my books are contemporary. It is nice kids are now interested in Victorian times. It is great too that children have been studying the first book in the series when they are learning about the Victorians, which was a lovely thing to hear.”

She added: “She left the institution on her 14th birthday and started her own life. It is interesting as young people were expected to be independent and look after themselves at that age. Sapphire is fiery, feisty, independent and involved. She does things her own way.”

Dame Jacqueline said she was inspired to write the book after visiting the Foundling Museum in London.

She learned all about the Foundling Hospital, which cared for young children, and thought it was a ‘brilliant challenge’ to base a book on it.